Mods And Rockers Festival: Festival Opens & Explains "What's Happening!"


Martin Lewis as producer of the Mods & Rockers Film Festival is that perfect British admixture of well-spoken decorum and borderline lunacy. As he reopened the cranium of his brainchild at the Egyptian last night, a full crowd of Beatle-maniacs of all ages were geared up to see What's Happening!: The Beatles in the USA. Albert and David Maysles did not even know who in blazing Hell The Beatles were when they were invited to shoot a short film for British TV of their Feb. 1964 arrival in New York, then on to DC and Miami.

The feature doc that ensued had never been shown on the West Coast until last night and the infectiousness of the Fab Four's wit delighted the crowd. Their down-to-earth Liverpudlian antics in NYC's Plaza Hotel and their train ride to the nation's capital ranged from George Harrison somehow lying atop a small luggage rack on the train to Paul McCartney holding forth on the absurdity of American TV. A personal favorite: an aged man holding out a piece of paper to be autographed, saying, "George!" "Ringo," explained Ringo, who signed it anyway.

Not only was Beatlemania a phenomenon for the US and UK, in general, it clearly amazed and delighted Beatles manager Brian Epstein, who in the back of a car, is boyishly pleased to talk about calling in to radio stations on the spur of the moment to do interviews, something utterly out of the question in 1964 England. Lewis reminded the audience that McCartney recently said "If there was ever a fifth Beatle, it was Brian." If one heard correctly, Lewis said there was a petition at the official Brian Epstein website, nearly 30,000 signatures strong, campaigning to have Epstein posthumously inducted into the 'Non-Performer's Section' of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Get clicking!

Interestingly, John Lennon caroused less than the other boys in the band in the Maysles' doc, but he got a roar out of the crowd when verbally sparring with NYC disc jockey Murray-the-K, who was goofily misidentifying a Beatles tune as "Love You Do."

"It's 'Love Me Do,' wacker," he caustically shot back, but with a smile that warmed our hearts.

The Rolling Stones film Gimme Shelter was preceded by Lewis' guest, producer Ron Schneider, who shared some tidbits. The gravel-voiced but genial Schneider admitted it took three months to convince Mick Jagger to leave in the infamous murder of an attendee by a Hells Angel at the Altamont Speedway concert. And Schneider admitted they had security beyond the Hell's Angels at the concert: it turned out that the Mob-related henchmen were really members of the FBI. Sounds like they had everyone but the KGB doing security there! It's enough to convince one that there is a great, behind-the-scenes book to be written about the Altamont concert.

And you gotta love Schneider's honesty. He demanded a gross deal for the rights to the movie from Warners. They finally agreed, after hemming and hawing, with the stipulation that prints and advertising were deductible, which was then quite a decent deal. Schneider refused and sold the movie to Cinema Five. But he had the last laugh. Most features then had a two-year life and he was offered a buy-out. He passed, without knowing that cable and satellite would eventually make it all worth while...and make Gimme Shelter worth a lot to him personally. The kick-off to Mods & Rockers 2007 has convinced this exhausted but happy blogger that there is no such thing as an unlucky Friday the 13th.